Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Springhill Hospitals, Inc. v. State Health Planning and Development Agency and Surgicare of Mobile, Ltd.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 27, 2017

Springhill Hospitals, Inc., and Infirmary Health System, Inc.
v.
State Health Planning and Development Agency and Surgicare of Mobile, Ltd.

         Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court (CV-16-900859)

          THOMAS, JUDGE.

         Springhill Hospitals, Inc. ("Springhill"), and Infirmary Health System, Inc. ("Infirmary")(hereinafter referred to collectively as "the hospitals"), have appealed a judgment of the Montgomery Circuit Court affirming a decision of the Certificate of Need Review Board ("the CONRB") of the State Health Planning and Development Agency ("SHPDA") to deny the hospitals' petition for a declaratory ruling in which they sought to reverse the determination contained in a letter of nonreviewability ("LNR") that SHPDA's executive director had issued to Surgicare of Mobile, Ltd. ("Surgicare").

         Background

         This is the third appeal to this court regarding this litigation. We summarized much of the relevant background in Springhill Hospitals, Inc. v. State Health Planning & Development Agency, 224 So.3d 670, 671-72 (Ala. Civ. App. 2016), which involved the second appeal to this court:

"Surgicare owns an ambulatory surgery center ('ASC') in Mobile, and each of the hospitals[1] owns a facility in Mobile that provides the same services that Surgicare provides at its ASC. On August 4, 2014, Surgicare filed a request with SHPDA for an LNR pursuant to Ala. Admin. Code (SHPDA), Rule 410-1-7-.02, [1] seeking a determination of whether a plan to expand its ASC was subject to the review of the CONRB. Providence [Hospital] and Infirmary thereafter submitted letters to SHPDA opposing Surgicare's request for an LNR. Springhill instead filed a complaint in the Montgomery Circuit Court against SHPDA and Surgicare seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. In February 2015, the Montgomery Circuit Court entered an order dismissing Springhill's complaint, specifically finding that it had not exhausted its administrative remedies. This court affirmed the Montgomery Circuit Court's judgment, without an opinion, on August 21, 2015. Springhill Hosps., Inc., d/b/a Springhill Mem'l Hosp. v. Surgicare of Mobile, Ltd., et al., 217 So.3d 861 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015)(table).
"On March 16, 2016, SHPDA's executive director, Alva Lambert, issued an LNR to Surgicare in which he stated that, '[a]ccording to the facts that have been provided, a Certificate of Need would not be required under Alabama law and the Alabama Certificate of Need Program Rules and Regulations for the proposed expansion.' On April 6, 2016, the hospitals, pursuant to Ala. Admin. Code (SHPDA), Rule 410-1-9-.01, [2] petitioned the CONRB for a declaratory ruling 'revers[ing] the reviewability determination dated March 16, 2016, issued by SHPDA's Executive Director regarding Surgicare's proposed expansion of its ASC.'
"On May 5, 2016, the CONRB issued a declaratory ruling denying the hospitals' petition. On May 25, 2016, the hospitals filed a notice of appeal to the Montgomery Circuit Court in which they indicated that jurisdiction was proper in that court under §§ 41-22-11 and 41-22-20(a), Ala. Code 1975.[2] That same day, the hospitals also filed a notice of appeal to this court in which they indicated that subject-matter jurisdiction was proper in this court under § 22-21-275(6), Ala. Code 1975. On September 12, 2016, the appeal to this court was submitted on the parties' appellate briefs, and, on September 15, 2016, we issued an order requiring the parties to submit letter briefs 'regarding the issue whether judicial review of the Certificate of Need Review Board's May 5, 2016, ruling is proper in this court under § 22-21-275(6), Ala. Code 1975, or is proper in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County under § 41-22-11(b), Ala. Code 1975.' See C.J.L. v. M.W.B., 868 So.2d 451, 453 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003)('[A] court's lack of subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time ... and may even be raised by a court ex mero motu.').
" __
"1Rule 410-1-7-.02 was amended effective October 7, 2016, while the appeal was pending before this court. The parties and the CONRB operated under the version of this rule in effect before the amendment.
"2The Alabama Secretary of State's records indicate that SHPDA submitted an amended version of Rule 410-1-9-.01 in June 2016."

         We ultimately dismissed the hospitals' second appeal after concluding that the legislature had not invested this court with subject-matter jurisdiction to consider direct appeals of declaratory rulings issued by the CONRB. Id. at 676.

         Following our dismissal of the second appeal, the circuit court ordered the parties to submit briefs, and it heard oral arguments of counsel at a hearing in April 2017 regarding the hospitals' request for judicial review of the CONRB's denial of their petition for a declaratory ruling. On April 6, 2017, the circuit court entered a judgment affirming the CONRB's denial of the hospitals' petition for a declaratory ruling, reasoning, in relevant part: "SHPDA's final decision denying [the petition] was rational, reasonably justified[, ] and supported by substantial evidence of record." The hospitals filed a timely notice of appeal to this court on May 18, 2017. See § 41-22-21, Ala. Code 1975 ("An aggrieved party may obtain a review of any final judgment of the circuit court under Section 41-22-20[, Ala. Code 1975, ] by appeal to the appropriate court to which the appeal or review lies."); § 12-22-2, Ala. Code 1975 ("From any final judgment of the circuit court ..., an appeal lies to the appropriate appellate court."); and § 12-3-10, Ala. Code 1975 ("The Court of Civil Appeals shall have exclusive jurisdiction of ... all appeals from administrative agencies other than the Alabama Public Service Commission.").

         Standard of Review

"'"[An appellate] court reviews a trial court's judgment regarding the decision of an administrative agency 'without any presumption of its correctness, since [the trial] court was in no better position to review the [agency's decision] than' this court. State Health Planning & Res. Dev. Admin. v. Rivendell of Alabama, Inc., 469 So.2d 613, 614 (Ala. Civ. App. 1985). Under the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act ('AAPA'), § 41-22-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, which governs judicial review of agency decisions,
"'"'[e]xcept where judicial review is by trial de novo, the agency order shall be taken as prima facie just and reasonable and the court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact, except where otherwise authorized by statute. The court may affirm the agency action or remand the case to the agency for taking additional testimony and evidence or for further proceedings. The court may reverse or modify the decision or grant other appropriate relief from the agency action, equitable or legal, including declaratory relief, if the court finds that the agency action is due to be set aside or modified under standards set forth in appeal or review statutes applicable to that agency or if substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the agency action is any one or more of the following:
" '"'(1) In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions;
"'"'(2) In excess of the statutory authority of the agency;
" '"'(3) In violation of any pertinent agency rule;
"'"'(4) Made upon unlawful procedure;
"'"'(5) Affected by other error of law;
"'"'(6) Clearly erroneous in view of t he r e liable, probative, an d substantial evidence on the whole record; or
"'" '(7) Unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious, or characterized by an abuse of discretion or a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.'
"'"§ 41-22-20(k), Ala. Code 1975 .... In reviewing the decision of a state administrative agency, '[t]he special competence of the agency lends great weight to its decision, and that decision must be affirmed, unless it is arbitrary and capricious or not made in compliance with applicable law.' Alabama Renal Stone Inst., Inc. v. Alabama Statewide Health Coordinating Council, 628 So.2d 821, 823 (Ala. Civ. App. 1993) .... Neither this court nor the trial court may substitute its judgment for that of the administrative agency. Alabama Renal Stone Inst., Inc. v. Alabama Statewide Health Coordinating Council, 628 So.2d 821, 823 (Ala. Civ. App. 1993). 'This holds true even in cases where the testimony is generalized, the evidence is meager, and reasonable minds might differ as to the correct result.' Health Care Auth. of Huntsville v. State Health Planning Agency, 549 So.2d 973, 975 (Ala. Civ. App. 1989)."
"'Colonial Mgmt. Grp. [v. State Health Planning and Development Agency, 853 So.2d 972, 974-75 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002)](emphasis omitted).'
"[Alabama Bd. of Exam'rs of Landscape Architects v.] Bostick, 211 So.3d [816, ] 822-23 [(Ala. Civ. App. 2015)]."

Ex parte Bostick, 211 So.2d 825, 831-32 (Ala. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.